Carlos Sainz produced a brilliant lap to take pole position at the United States Grand Prix as Ferrari outpaced Red Bull in qualifying at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas.
Sainz led a one-two from team-mate Charles Leclerc, but will be joined on the front row by world champion Max Verstappen, who finished third for Red Bull, because of a 10-place grid penalty applied to the second Ferrari for taking new engine parts.
Sergio Perez was fourth, but with the second Red Bull facing a five-place grid penalty, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate George Russell are promoted to the second row after finishing fifth and sixth respectively.
Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll produced an impressive performance to finish seventh, and will also be promoted two places to start on the third row alongside McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Fernando Alonso qualified ninth, but is also facing a five-place penalty, meaning Valtteri Bottas is promoted from 10th to seventh. Bottas’ Alfa Romeo team-mate Zhou Guanyu is the fourth and final driver facing a grid penalty, which drops him from 14th to 19th.
Verstappen sealed his second successive title by winning in Japan two weeks’ ago, but there remains plenty to play for as Red Bull attempt to seal the constructors’ championship and Leclerc battles Perez for second in the drivers’ contest.
Leclerc’s demotion – for taking a new internal combustion engine and turbocharger – has stiffened Ferrari’s task of beating Red Bull by 19 points to extend the constructors’ championship, but Sainz’s pole offers encouragement for the Italian team.
“It was fun, a lot of fun,” Sainz said. “It was very tricky out there with the winds today, gusts at every corner and you don’t know how much grip you are going to get or expect but I managed to put together a good lap without mistakes and pole position was a long time coming after a few times getting close but not quite getting there.
“I think for tomorrow red Bull are still favourites. They normally have the race pace and they normally get us in the race because Max does a very good job.
“But we are going to do everything we can tomorrow to stay ahead and win the race which would be an amazing way to start these last four races.”
There was a sombre mood in the Red Bull garage – and the rest of the F1 paddock – after news broke shortly before qualifying that the team’s founder and owner Dietrich Mateschitz had died at the age of 78.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner held back tears as he offered a tribute to Mateschitz before the session, on what was already proving to be a turbulent weekend for the team as they continue to deny accusations of “cheating” from rivals after having been found to have breached F1’s cost cap for the 2021 season.
While there has been a tense atmosphere in Austin with other teams calling for a strong punishment as the FIA continues to deliberate, Mateschitz’s passing brought unity as tributes flooded in from all corners of the paddock.
United States GP Qualifying Results
1) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
2) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari*
3) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
4) Sergio Perez, Red Bull*
5) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
6) George Russell, Mercedes
7) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
8) Lando Norris, McLaren
9) Fernando Alonso, Alpine*
10) Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo
*Grid penalties for taking new engine parts
Sainz triumphs after frantic session
A dramatic qualifying session in Texas began with two surprise Q1 exits, as Esteban Ocon finished 18th after failing to maintain the solid pace Alpine had shown throughout the weekend.
The other headline name to drop out was Daniel Ricciardo, as the outgoing McLaren driver’s miserable season continued with a third Q1 exit in the last five races.
Mick Schumacher failed to enhance his hopes of staying in F1 with Haas next season, as a spin ruined his final flying lap and left him 19th.
The most impressive performance in Q1 came from Alex Albon, who produced a late surge to advance for Williams, and showed more strong speed in Q2 to finish 11th.
There appeared to be more disappointment for McLaren in Q2 as Norris initially showed as 11th – and out – on the timesheet, but the Brit was reprieved as Zhou saw his lap-time deleted for exceeding track limits.
There was more for frustration for AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, who will drive for Alpine next season, as he complained about his car over the radio before finishing 13th.
Meanwhile, Sainz had topped Q1 and Leclerc Q2, with Verstappen following close behind on both occasions, setting up an intriguing finale.
Despite having no hope of pole because of his grid penalty, Leclerc maintained his advantage in the first runs of Q3 to stay ahead of Sainz, with Hamilton impressing to go clear of the Red Bulls in third.
However, it would be all change on the second and final run, as Sainz turned the tables on Leclerc to seal his third pole of the season with a 1:34.356, with Leclerc just 0.065s back.
Verstappen improved on his final run to take third, while Perez also jumped Hamilton as the seven-time world champion failed to hook up the crucial lap.
Hamilton admitted afterwards that had been left disappointed at Mercedes remaining off the pace despite bringing significant upgrades to a track where he has excelled in the past.
“I had been feeling so optimistic all weekend,” Hamilton said.
“The car setup was feeling good, everyone back at the factory worked so hard to bring an upgrade and I was so hopeful we would be much closer than we were.
United States GP Qualifying Timesheet
|1) Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||1:34.356|
|2) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+0.065|
|3) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.092|
|4) Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+0.289|
|5) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+0.591|
|6) George Russell||Mercedes||+0.632|
|7) Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+1.242|
|8) Lando Norris||McLaren||+1.334|
|9) Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+1.520|
|10) Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||+1.963|
|Out in Q2|
|11) Alex Albon||Williams||1:36.368|
|12) Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||1:36.398|
|13) Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||1:36.740|
|14) Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo||1:36.970|
|15) Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||1:37.147|
|Out in Q1|
|16) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||1:36.949|
|17) Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||1:37.046|
|18) Esteban Ocon||Alpine||1:37.068|
|19) Mick Schumacher||Haas||1:37.111|
|20) Nicholas Latifi||Williams||1:37.244|
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